Crime, Municipal Politics, Published Articles

Chief McGrogan denies claim negative internal survey results were swept under the rug

Originally published in the Medicine Hat News

Medicine Hat’s police chief and chair of the police commission are pushing back against allegations they suppressed two internal surveys conducted by the city’s Human Resources department, which cast the force’s work environment in a negative light.

“Some people don’t like the results but there was nothing hidden,” chief Andy McGrogan, who initiated the surveys in 2017, said of the internal response.

“There seems to be people (who) think we haven’t been communicating with the police commission, which we have been. It’s an internal matter and I always inform the commission of all we do, so there’s no secrets. None.”

The first survey was specifically for female officers, which had just seven responses, and the second was for all employees of the police department. Both surveys were provided to the News by local paralegal Ken Montgomery.

According to the results of the initial survey, about 42 per cent of female officers either disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement, “Development opportunities are available equally to both male and female officers.” This is roughly equivalent to three of the seven officers who participated.

The survey also identified themes consistent among participants, including being the target of inappropriate comments and physical behaviour from male officers, a lack of trust and confidentiality, a sense that women officers are held to a higher standard than their male counterparts and a “boys club” atmosphere.

The second survey includes a word bubble of adjectives employees use to describe MHPS culture. Although ‘Awesome’, ‘Busy’ and ‘Team’ appear in the bubble, others described the environment as ‘Poison’, ‘Toxic’, ‘Cliquey’ and ‘Political’.

The results of its questionnaire portion reveal that 58 per cent of employees disagree with the statement, “Opportunities are provided equally for professional development” and 70 per cent disagree with the assertion, “The promotional process is fair and based on individual performance, seniority and merit.”

And 54 per cent disagreed with the statement that senior management, “Promotes a culture of inclusion and diversity,” although 57 per cent agreed that upper management, “Acts with integrity.”

Montgomery says he sought to obtain these documents based on issues some current and former MHPS employees brought to him confidentially.

“They’re upset and concerned,” he said, placing his allegations in the context of the ongoing discussion of bullying and harassment in the RCMP.

“If you see something wrong, you’re supposed to take a stand. I’m thinking of the good members of the Medicine Hat Police Service — past and present — who want to do their jobs right in a proper environment.”

The chief cast doubt on the veracity of allegations made by somebody outside the police force.

“He doesn’t know,” said McGrogan.

The results were presented to the commission, McGrogan says.

“There’s really nothing our governing body doesn’t know about our operations that is significant to know,” he said. “There seems to be some misconception that we have the raw data, but we did go to HR and ask them to keep the raw data and generalize.”

The results were provided to each member of the Medicine Hat Police Service, McGrogan added.

“We’ve made a number of changes,” he said, declining to provide specifics at this time.

“I can tell you the police commission knows everything I know.”

Commission chair Greg Keen said the oversight body was provided with the same survey data as MHPS members.

“From what I recall, it wasn’t just verbal. There would have been some sort of presentation given to us,” said Keen.

According to the minutes of the December 2017 meeting, McGrogan told the commission that as a result of the internal survey results, the MHPS will be updating its clothing and appearance policy, allowing officers to show tattoos and have facial hair.

Beyond that, there’s no mention of the surveys in the minutes since May 2017, when McGrogan told the commission he had initiated the second questionnaire.

In addition to the News, Montgomery addressed his report, including the survey results, to Keen, Mayor Ted Clugston and MLA Robert Wanner, among others.

Keen says he hasn’t seen any documents, but has had “some communication” with Montgomery via e-mail.

“He’s never brought up an issue with me.”

Crime, Municipal Politics, Published Articles

Former police commission chair charged with assault

Originally published in the Medicine Hat News

A former police commission chair has been charged with assault causing bodily harm against a woman, in addition to facing previously reported fraud charges, the News has learned.

Both alleged incidents occurred when he sat on the commission, from 2012-2017.

Rolf Traichel, 45, is accused of assault causing bodily harm relating to an incident that allegedly occurred March 8, 2016, but the charge wasn’t filed until May 31, 2018, according to court documents.

He was released on $3,000 no-cash bail the next day.

Traichel hasn’t personally appeared in court on that charge since then.

A Lethbridge-based Crown prosecutor was assigned to the case, due to a potential conflict of interest with the Medicine Hat Crown.

An agent for Traichel’s lawyer — Jordan Henrie — made a brief Monday appearance at Medicine Hat Provincial Court, where the matter was adjourned to Nov. 19.

Traichel was also arrested for allegedly defrauding the Medicine Hat Catholic Board of Education — where he worked as an IT consultant — of $1 million on Aug. 8, following a six-month investigation.

He faces charges of fraud over $5,000, money laundering and possessing proceeds of crime in relation to that investigation.

Police said at the time that the fraud allegedly occurred between 2010 and 2016, which overlaps with Traichel’s time on the police commission, but he isn’t suspected of any wrongdoing against the police.

Police commission chair Greg Keen, who has sat on the commission since 2014, said he had no idea about the assault allegation against Traichel.

He was unaware of the fraud-related charges until they were announced in August, he added.

“He wasn’t charged until he was off of the commission,” Keen said. “It came as a surprise for sure.”

Medicine Hat Police Service Insp. Tim McGough, who’s in charge of the fraud investigation, declined comment on the alleged assault, citing MHPS policy.

“As practice, we don’t comment on stuff that’s before the courts,” said McGough.

The Catholic school board didn’t respond to request for comment by press time.

Crime, Published Articles

Cop guilty of sexual assault

Originally published in the Medicine Hat News

A former Bow Island police officer charged with one count of sexual assault and two counts of breach of trust was found guilty of all charges Friday.

Elliott Teed — who resigned from the RCMP last year — was on trial all week for an incident that occurred the night of Feb. 12, 2015. He took the stand Wednesday.

Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Robert Hall acknowledged discrepancies in the testimony of all witnesses, but said the inconsistencies in Teed’s testimony were more significant than the complainant’s.

The victim testified Monday that Teed gave her two pat-downs after finding marijuana in her vehicle during a routine check-stop.

The first was a regular pat-down, while the second was more akin to a grope, she said.

This is the substance of the sexual assault and first breach of trust charge.

Hall said he didn’t understand why the second pat down was necessary.

While Teed testified he didn’t recall whether he could see her nipples, he said in his recorded statement to the RCMP that he could.

After the grope, Teed issued the complainant a 24-hour driving suspension, but allowed her to wait in her car with her keys, a practice Hall said “strikes me as unusual” Thursday.

The complainant testified that Teed returned to her car multiple times after dropping off his auxiliary, Kaide Sadler.

She said Teed offered her back her marijuana if she would go for a ride with him — the substance of the second breach of trust charge.

“You keep my drugs. I’ll keep my dignity,” the complainant testified she told Teed.

Although the GPS data presented to court only showed Teed return to the vehicle just once, the Crown claimed he turned it off.

This was deemed consistent with Sadler’s testimony that he had seen Teed turn off the police car’s computer before.

Teed entered a Google search of his location to confirm he was at home with his wife by 9:45 p.m., but his wife wasn’t called as a witness, which Hall thought was odd.

Teed also could have gone back out after returning home, but conveniently only mentioned the Google search up until 9:45 p.m., Hall observed.

The accused testified he held on to the cannabis to dispose of with Sadler, but he didn’t get rid of the weed until the next morning, prior to taking his kids to school.

Holding on to the victim’s marijuana is consistent with the Crown’s narrative that he used it to “lure” her into his vehicle.

Hall said he found it highly suspicious that Teed took no notes of his interaction with the complainant and that it took him 11 days after the incident to enter the driving suspension into the police reporting and occurrence system database.

“These concerns aren’t minor inconsistencies,” concluded Hall.

Defence lawyer Robb Beeman, who in his closing argument called the complainant an “unmitigated liar,” declined comment after the verdict was read.

A pre-sentence report will be conducted in New Brunswick, where Teed currently resides.

A date for sentencing submissions will be set Dec. 14.

Crime, Published Articles

Proper police conduct detailed, scrutinized at former Bow Island cop’s trial

Originally published in the Medicine Hat News

Two RCMP officers and an auxiliary testified Tuesday at the trial of a former Bow Island cop charged with a sexual assault that allegedly occurred more than two years ago.

Elliott Teed sat in silence at the Court of Queen’s Bench in Medicine Hat, where he faces one count of sexual assault and two counts of breach of trust stemming from a Feb. 12, 2015 checkstop on Highway 3.

During the traffic stop, Teed found cannabis in the complainant’s vehicle, giving her a 24-hour driving suspension as a result.

The complainant, who cannot be named due to a publication ban, testified Monday that Teed gave her a pat down twice, with the second time focusing on her breasts.

She also alleges that while she was waiting in her car, which was moved to the side of a nearby building, for her suspension to end, Teed pulled up to her vehicle and propositioned her.

Tuesday’s first witness was Jarom L.W. Leafloor, an RCMP peace officer in Airdrie who was the detachment commander in Bow Island at the time of the incident.

Leafloor said male officers are trained to be more careful when patting down female suspects.

If they feel the need to more aggressively pat down a woman, they must get a female officer to do so.

In 2015, Bow Island’s detachment didn’t have any female officers, so the suspect would have to had been taken to Redcliff or Taber.

Defence lawyer Robb Beeman made a distinction between police policies and practices during cross-examination of Leafloor.

The official policy of the RCMP, while cannabis was illegal, was to seize the substance and charge the person with possession.

However, as Leafloor admitted, police would often just dispose of the cannabis in front of the suspect if it was a smaller amount.

Beeman suggested the same is true of pat downs.

“You’re not bringing a female officer when you find a small quantity of marijuana,” he said.

Leafloor said male officers are trained to search under the bra line and between the breasts.

“Your practice may be to avoid that, but you’re trained to do that,” responded Beeman.

Leafloor testified that he couldn’t find a police reporting occurrences, or PROSE file with a copy of the driving suspension in it.

But Beeman provided a copy of a PROSE file for the incident, which had Leafloor’s human resources number on it.

“I don’t remember doing it,” Leafloor said, adding that he must have been asked to do it as part of the investigation into Teed.

“There’s no reason why I would’ve printed off this specific document in general.”

The second witness was Michael James Hill, the acting RCMP corporal in Eston, Sask., whom the complainant had reported the alleged assault to.

He was flagged down by her on the morning of Feb. 16 on Main Street in Eston.

“She looked really upset, nervous, stand-offish,” observed Hill.

He told her to come to the Kindersley detachment to provide an official statement.

She didn’t show up when she was supposed to provide the statement.

Hill ran into her later that week — on Feb. 20 — and urged her to come forward, which she did on Feb. 23.

In her statement to the RCMP, she said she was wearing a bra at the time of the alleged assault, but according to Kaile Sadler, the auxiliary who accompanied Teed the night of and filled out the suspension form, her nipples showed through her shirt, indicating she wasn’t wearing a bra.

In his testimony, Sadler was unable to recall much of what occurred on Feb. 12, 2015, however he remembers remarking to Teed about the complainant’s nipples.

“I remember him not touching her inappropriately,” Sadler testified.

After dropping the complainant off at her car, Sadler said he asked Teed, “Would you?” inquiring whether he’d have sex with her.

According to Sadler, Teed said, “No, because she seems like someone who would have a disease.”

The trial resumes with Sadler’s cross-examination this morning.

Crime, Published Articles

Taxi assault nets six years in prison

Originally published in Medicine Hat News

A man who pled guilty to kidnapping a Medicine Hat cab driver and sexually assaulting her before driving to Calgary and abandoning her was sentenced Friday to six years imprisonment.

Shaun Thomas Baldhead, 29, appeared from the prisoner’s box at his sentencing at Medicine Hat Provincial Court.

“What you were involved in that night from a societal perspective is reprehensible,” Judge Eric Brooks said in his ruling. “I don’t think there are very many people who can excuse that.”

With credit for time served, Baldhead will spent 1,191 days in prison, or 3.26 years.

According to the agreed statement of facts, on Nov. 24, 2016 around 10 p.m., Baldhead approached the victim’s taxi posing as a fare.

He asked if she could pull over at a bank so he could withdraw money.

When he returned to the vehicle, he got into the back seat and told her he had a gun before taking over the taxi.

He then parked in the Riverside neighbourhood, forcing the victim to perform oral sex on him.

Baldhead then drove the victim to Calgary, stopping for gas briefly in Brooks.

He told her that if she moved, he would shoot the attendant.

Baldhead also used the victim’s cell phone to make multiple calls, threatening to murder her family if she told anyone about the kidnapping and sexual assault.

Around 2 a.m. he dropped the victim off in the middle of Calgary.

After she provided a detailed description of Baldhead to Calgary police, including a tattoo on his left cheek, the accused was found on a Calgary Transit bus.

He was on the bus because he had left the cab in a field, setting it on fire from the inside.

The victim needed to take four months off work as a result from the trauma she endured.

Brooks noted how the totalled vehicle was the victim’s “sole source of income.”

During the sentencing submissions in April, the Crown requested six to eight years, later asking for nine.

Defence lawyer Robin McIntyre requested four years and eight months.

As aggravating factors, Brooks cited the victim’s vulnerability as a 50-year-old working grandmother, the fact the kidnapping took place over a span of four hours and that he threatened to shoot her twice.

Although Baldhead is young, “he is quite mature with regard to his relationship to the court system,” Brooks noted.

He cited as mitigating factors Baldhead’s guilty plea, which spared the victim of having to re-live her trauma through cross-examination, his co-operation with police and the Gladue report that was prepared for him as an aboriginal offender, which outlines a background Brooks called “tragic beyond description” and “a recipe for disaster.”

In addition to the prison sentence, Baldhead is required to pay $820 restitution for the taxi’s ticketing and towing in Calgary.

“It is difficult for me to imagine what she went through that night,” Brooks said, referring to the victim.

After she presented her victim impact statement to the court in July, Baldhead expressed his remorse, apologizing to the victim.

“I hope (it was) sincere,” Brooks concluded Friday.

Crime, Published Articles

Man gets one year for assault on ex-girlfriend

Originally published in Medicine Hat News

A man with an extensive criminal record pled guilty Friday to physically abusing his ex-girlfriend over a span of five months, receiving a sentence of one year in jail.

Matthew Pearton appeared in person as a prisoner at the Court of Queen’s Bench, where he pled guilty to assault but not guilty to sexual assault.

The sexual assault charge was stayed by the Crown.

According to a joint submission of facts, police were called to the victim’s residence on April 5, 2017, to check on her well-being.

When they arrived, the victim became emotional, telling the police Pearton was regularly pinching and hitting her without provocation.

He also occasionally bit her on her breasts and elsewhere.

Pearton would sometimes hold her down on the ground, which the Crown said is “not an assault, but part of the context.”

Police took pictures of bruises on her arms, breast and legs.

When they were in a relationship, which began in December 2016, the accused became controlling, keeping the victim’s money and deciding when to give it to her, as well as forbidding her from seeing friends.

Although there was no official victim impact statement, the prosecutor spoke on her behalf.

“She continues to be terrified of the accused,” Crown prosecutor Jase Cowan said, adding that she fears for the safety of her young children.

Defence lawyer Marc Crarer said his client suffers from “cognitive difficulties … in the intellectually deficient range.”

He said Pearton has not had “a very positive experience” being born and raised in Medicine Hat.

The accused is currently in a new relationship, which by contrast Crarer called a “really positive” experience.

He has a child with his new girlfriend, who resides with Pearton and his mother in Roblin, Man.

“He’s made up his mind that once he’s released he’ll return to Manitoba,” said Crarer.

Pearton’s substantial criminal record began in 2016, when he was fined for theft under $5,000 and a breach of bail conditions.

Later that year, he was fined for mischief.

Earlier this year, Pearton was found guilty of uttering threats and breaching a no-contact order with the same victim, for which he was sentenced to jail time with probation.

In their joint submission for the assault charge, the Crown and defence requested another year in jail, as well as another year probation.

“This is a true quid pro quo, given the charges the Crown isn’t pursuing,” the prosecutor said, referring to the stayed sexual assault charge.

“The conduct he’s admitted to is serious enough to warrant the sentence proposed,” added Crarer.

Justice William Tilleman agreed with the joint submission, citing the “principles of proportionality.”

Pearton will go to jail for 354 days, due to credit for 11 days time served, and will serve probation for a year after.

He will also be forbidden from communicating with the victim or any witnesses and cannot attend within two blocks of the victim’s home or workplace.

The accused declined comment when asked by the judge if he wanted to address the court.

Crime, Published Articles

Family of four former Hatters reported missing from Surrey

Originally published in Medicine Hat News

A family of four originally from Medicine Hat were declared missing from Surrey on Tuesday evening, according to the local RCMP detachment.

The Anderson family was reported missing to the Surrey RCMP by another family member.

Missing are Sheldon, the father, a 43-year-old who is about 5-foot-10, weighing about 190 pounds with dirty blonde hair and blue eyes; Nona, the mother, 45, who is about 5-foot-9, with a medium build and long blonde hair; Chanel, their 13-year-old daughter, who’s approximately 5 feet, with a thin build and long blonde hair; and daughter Mariah, 10, about 4 feet with a thin build and long blonde hair.

Their names all appear in a Medicine Hat News obituary published in 2014 for Sheldon’s step-father Maurice Cote.

It’s unclear when they moved to Surrey.

They were last seen on Sept. 9, and contacted Sept. 10 around 9 p.m. by a relative.

Their vehicle — a 2002 tan-coloured Toyota Sienna mini-van with Alberta licence plate BGZ-2221 — was last seen Sept. 11 leaving the parking garage of their Surrey home.

“They have not been seen or heard from since,” read a Surrey RCMP news release.

“Investigators believe they could possibly be driving to Alberta.”

The Surrey RCMP was unable to comment by press time on this suspicion.

The release also noted the family frequently visits Minoru Park in nearby Richmond.

Medicine Hat Police Service Insp. Joe West says the case is on their radar and they’re working together with the Surrey RCMP “to ensure we cover all the bases.”

This could involve MHPS interviewing local relatives, he added.

“We got a tip from the public that the family may live here and once we knew that, we contacted the Surrey RCMP and will offer any assistance,” said West.

Anyone with further information about the Andersons’ whereabouts is asked to contact Surrey RCMP at 604-599-0502, MHPS at 403-529-8481, or anonymously via CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.